(Received 1 August 1984; accepted 19 October 1984)
Published Online: July
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Fatal cocaine intoxication presenting as an excited delirium is described in seven recreational cocaine users. Symptoms began with the acute onset of an intense paranoia, followed by bizarre and violent behavior necessitating forcible restraint. The symptoms were frequently accompanied by unexpected strength and hyperthermia. Fatal respiratory collapse occurred suddenly and without warning, generally within a few minutes to an hour after the victim was restrained. Five of the seven died while in police custody. Blood concentration of cocaine averaged 0.6 mg/L, about ten times lower than that seen in fatal cocaine overdoses. Police, rescue personnel, and emergency room physicians should be aware that excited delirium may be the result of a potentially fatal cocaine intoxication; its appearance should prompt immediate transport of the victim to a medical facility. Continuous monitoring, administration of appropriate cocaine antagonists, and respiratory support will hopefully avert a fatal outcome.
Deputy chief medical examiner, Dade County, and clinical associate professor of pathology, Dade County Medical Examiner Department, University of Miami School of Medicine, Miami, FL
Director, Psychiatric Emergency Service, Jackson Memorial Hospital, and associate professor of psychiatry, University of Miami School of Medicine, Miami, FL
Stock #: JFS11020J